Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and casts lots. (Luke 23:34 NKJV)
The first saying of our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary was a prayer of forgiveness. He uttered these words after He was crucified on the same cross which He carried.
But before he was crucified, he experienced scourging. The rod which was used to scourge Him was made up of a 5 leather thongs or a rope tied with broken glass at its ends. According to the law, it usually takes forty (40) lashes when beating a criminal (Deut. 25:2-3). So if Jesus Christ was beaten 40 times, consequently, He endured 200 lashes and wounds, not to mention the disgrace, insults, slaps, blows and the slobber of the people on His face (Matthew 26:67)
Despite the physical, emotional and mental torture he suffered from the lashes and wounds around his body, His heart for forgiveness still prevailed. That though He was in a form of a man, He completely knew that the Father has sent Him as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of His blood (Romans 3:25-26).
What are the lessons and truths relating to the first saying of Christ?
GOD IS HIS FATHER
It is but inherent for Jesus Christ to call God as His Father because He is the only begotten Son (John 3:16). At His young age, Jesus Christ was already proclaiming that God is His Father (Luke 2:49). That only Him has seen God as He came from the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), and all throughout His lifetime on earth, Jesus Christ calls God in heaven as His Father (Matthew 10:32, John 10:29).
The same teaching was taught by the apostles to the early disciples, that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3).
This truth teaches us that we, His people who are given the right to be His children, should also call God in heaven as Father (Eph 5:20, 1 Peter 1:17).
This truth also corrects the existing misconceptions about Christ; that He was just a mere man born to Mary; that He does not have the nature of a God; and that He is also the same as the Father and descended from heaven.
HE HAS THE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SIN
“…forgive them, for they do not know what they do” though Jesus Christ uttered these words on His prayers, He beseeched these as someone who has the right to forgive (Luke 5:24). Jesus Christ as Creator of Life, knew that men were just victims of sin owing to their lack of faith in God and deceit of Satan (1 Tim 1:13, 1 John 3:8).
Jesus Christ forgave His enemies who persecuted Him; Herod’s contempt, Pontius Pilate’s cowardice, the High Priests who ridiculed Him, the guards or soldiers who mocked Him, as well as the other convict on the cross who insulted Him (Luke 23:11,14,35-39). On His teachings, Jesus Christ always admonishes to forgive (Mat 18-21-22, Luke 6:37). He could forgive even the most condemned person in a society (Juan 8:9-10).
Does Jesus Christ still forgive? Yes He still does. Even before He ascended to the heavens, He had commissioned His apostles to go throughout the world and teach about repentance and His forgiveness (Lucas 24:47). Therefore, whosoever will believe to the teachings brought by the apostles and their fellow, they will be assured of forgiveness and salvation (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:15-16). Even the disciples in the church could obtain constant remission from their sins through the right given to the apostles to forgive (John 20:21-23, 2 Cor. 2:10).
CHRIST’S PRAYER UNTIL THIS PRESENT TIME
The prayer of forgiveness and intercession of Christ for sinners does not end at the cross of Calvary. Until now, He is still praying and mediating for us (Heb.4:14-15, 1 Juan 2:1). He still prays that people will receive His Words being imparted by His sent ones (Jn.17:20-21). There is no small nor big sin which our Lord Jesus Christ cannot forgive, if we will only repent and confess his sin, Christ is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).
That’s why until now Christ still prays…“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
(Bishop Aldrin Palanca)